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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it: honestly!
Great read, though I wonder if the book is more about temptation and whether dishonesty is one facet along a vast panoply of human experiences and emotion. Whether it's taking the big piece of cake or lying to millions in the House of Commons! Surely at one level or another we are all tempted, at times, and this book discusses the weakening and strengthening factors...
Published 21 months ago by Duncurin

versus
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An orderly deconstruction of our notions of dishonesty, but perhaps a little too lab-based
Dan Ariely, author of the marvellous Predictably Irrational and thoughtful commentator on human foibles, presents his latest book as a comprehensive review of the factors affecting honesty (and cheating). As always, his writing is accessible, entertaining, and often humorous. Where this book differs a little from others I have read of his or that are in this field, is...
Published 20 months ago by Dr. P. J. A. Wicks


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it: honestly!, 25 July 2012
By 
Duncurin (Manchester) - See all my reviews
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Great read, though I wonder if the book is more about temptation and whether dishonesty is one facet along a vast panoply of human experiences and emotion. Whether it's taking the big piece of cake or lying to millions in the House of Commons! Surely at one level or another we are all tempted, at times, and this book discusses the weakening and strengthening factors concerned with this process, along with many interesting examples.

Psychiatrists talk of 'protective factors', maybe thoughts about a loved one, which causes a patient intent on harming himself to stop. Temptation also has protective factors that we can call upon in that cusp of indecision. As a poor student, I lost my wallet running between trains at Birmingham. It was handed in complete and I have never forgotten my gratitude. A year ago when parking, my front tyre went over what turned out to be someone's wallet. I'm sure the devil would have reserved for me a nice warm seat if I had kept that wallet, but it would also have destroyed any positive emotion that I received from those experiences as a student, and rightly so too. Last month, here in Manchester, a man was coming from the bank with 1000 in his hand; he somehow tripped and the money promptly blew away. Sitting in his car a few minutes later- people started banging on the window in order to return the cash: 49, 20 notes were returned and my view is that those 49 people who acted in this way were enriched by that act; more so, than spending 20 that wasn't theirs, could ever have done.

I wonder therefore if it's important that we humans struggle with these dilemmas, if only because it enriches and 'validates' our lives. I appreciate that we won't all do the right thing all the time, but I believe that the vast majority on most occasions will do exactly that; and more than this we will all have a line - like giving a blind lady rotten tomatoes - that we simply will never cross.

I liked the section on how we lie to ourselves. For the politician who stands up and lies to millions, it could, kindly, be called 'being in denial' and on a lesser scale, surely we all lie to ourselves and maybe it's called confidence! One late night on call; I admitted 4 patients one after another to the same hospital. The doctor who received them berated me for handing him so much work and of course I would like to tell you that I saved 4 lives that night - but perhaps he would say that my confidence had suddenly evaporated and I was just playing it safe.

I worry about the so called victimless crime. Those who feign illness and live 'off the state' - who can it possibly hurt? Perhaps those who bear this burden on their taxes for one; and also those who are genuinely disabled. Also those who really try to stand up do the right thing and to better themselves - it must be hard when the chap next door stays in bed all day and has more money in his pocket! In addition those who cheat in this way lead half-lives which in turn leads to far more mental and physical problems.

So, as this book concludes, perhaps we all need to constantly remind ourselves of those factors which encourage us to do the right thing, not give in to temptation and continually strive to be 'better' people - its a good , stimulating read. Many thanks.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An orderly deconstruction of our notions of dishonesty, but perhaps a little too lab-based, 3 Aug 2012
By 
Dr. P. J. A. Wicks (London, England) - See all my reviews
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Dan Ariely, author of the marvellous Predictably Irrational and thoughtful commentator on human foibles, presents his latest book as a comprehensive review of the factors affecting honesty (and cheating). As always, his writing is accessible, entertaining, and often humorous. Where this book differs a little from others I have read of his or that are in this field, is that there is a significant focus on a particular set of experiments that Ariely and his team have conducted in his lab. The task involves having participants complete a very difficult task but to allow them to take extra credit for completing more problems within the task then they actually did, with each new experiment given a slight tweak, such as the presence of a collaborator, an observer, or other influences such as being given fake designer sunglasses to wear. As a scientific method within social science, this is a very reasonable approach and this content would make an excellent and very entertaining review in a scientific journal.

However, for a popular science book I felt that continually coming back to minor variations on what is (as Ariely admits) a very controlled situation, limits the applicability of the findings somewhat. Perhaps this is a sparse field, but there seemed less reference in this book to the experiments of other researchers then I remember in books like Predictably Irrational. Another area where Ariely is most engaging is in his own life experiences and anecdotes, which peppered his earlier work but which seem more muted here. In theoretical terms there is really only reference to two major theories - the "broken windows theory" - which as Ariely admits has little or unclear evidence behind it, and the Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC), a straw man argument from theoretical economics if ever there was one, which suggests that humans are automatons who should steal from little old ladies whenever the benefits outweigh the costs. This is a shame as there are examples from sociobiology such as reciprocal altruism in primates which might have been instructive, and our interactions with others also involve more complex processes such as in-group / out-group identification. "Cognitive dissonance" is alluded to but not really explored deeply. Perhaps, as a "popular science" book, such considerations are out of scope or too broad for the level being aimed at, but there are many excellent books that attempt to explore the area of morality from a broader scientific basis starting with the Selfish Gene (Dawkins), the Origins of Virtue (Ridley), and Collapse (Diamond) to name a few. I do enjoy Ariely's work a lot and would certainly recommend this for a gentle introduction to thought about this area, but might direct the more hardcore nerd elsewhere.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, enlightening and only mildly annoying, 13 July 2012
By 
Jonathan Gifford (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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I find Dan Ariely's books to be enjoyable, enlightening and mildly annoying, in equal measures. The mildly annoying bit is surely unfair (and unreasonable) of me. I do tend to find Ariely's determinedly jaunty tone a bit wearying: he writes as if his readers were a pleasant but especially dim-witted intake of undergraduates. This is probably the secret of his publishing success: as the great H. L. Mencken said, 'No one has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people' (you and me, in this context). I am also a bit resistant to the notion that things about the human condition with which we are entirely familiar cannot be taken to be really true until they have been 'proved' to be true by psychologists. Most of the simple but ingenious experiments of Mr Ariely and his fellows tend to confirm several facts about human nature of which we were, in general, already aware. I don't have a problem with that and I enjoyed reading the book. I doubt, however, if you will find that you have learned anything about human nature that you had not already learned from your own experience, and nothing that Ariely and his team 'discover' about our behaviour has not been rather more convincingly portrayed by our great playwrights and novelists.

Ariely, to be fair, sets out to write popular science, and he succeeds admirably, although - as ever with the genre - some of the science gets lost in amongst the popularisation. All of his experiments are thought-provoking, though some of his conclusions are more compelling than others. Some leave one wondering, 'Can we really draw that conclusion so emphatically from that data?' Be that as it may, the ingenious tests seem to prove Ariely's central point: pretty much anyone will cheat if they think they are going to get away with it but that, nevertheless, 'most people cheat just enough to still feel good about themselves.' Our notion of ourselves as being decent and upright folk will only withstand so much evidence to the contrary.

Ariely enhances this core tenet with elaborations about social effects, all of which are interesting but few of which are earth-shattering (if we see that other people are cheating, we're more likely to join in, especially if they are part of our social set; if we feel we're being observed, we're less likely to cheat) and with some of those interesting but occasionally slightly dubious other conclusions: willpower is limited and can be depleted, and we are more likely to succumb to temptation when we have already forced ourselves to resist a number of previous temptations (on that analysis, how does anyone ever give up smoking?); wearing sunglasses that we know to be fake designer sunglasses makes us more likely to cheat ('the wearers of fake sunglasses showed a much greater tendency to abandon their moral constraints and cheat at full throttle'). The moral of this tale would seem to be never to ask a friend wearing fake sunglasses to look after your handbag in the pub garden while you go to the loo.

All that said, this is a jolly and informative romp through some genuinely interesting current psychological thinking, entertainingly and readably presented. I have to declare an interest at this point: one of the chapters in this book is called `Blinded by our own motivations' and, in another chapter, Ariely writes that, 'We may not always know why we do what we do, choose what we choose, or feel what we feel.' As the man who has written a book called Blindsided on exactly that theme, I cannot help but say, in this particular context, that Dan Ariely is clearly a deeply perceptive and highly intelligent chap (demonstrably so, since he agrees with me).

I do, however, have a few gripes. Ariely concludes, as a result of a particular set of experiments, that people with a particularly creative mindset are more likely to deceive than others: their enhanced 'story-telling' abilities allow them to be comfortable with various version of reality that may not exactly coincide with what you and I thought had actually happened. ('The more creative we are, the more we are able to come up with good stories about how we are doing the right thing, even when we are not.') But then the psychologists discover that one sees the same effect in people who have been merely 'primed' for creativity by being exposed to a number of carefully-chosen words in the course of the experiment: 'creative', 'original', 'novel', 'new' and 'ingenious', for example. Since Ariely is attempting to make a conclusion based on the fundamental structure of individuals' brains (creative people have more white matter in their noddles and are therefore able to 'make more connections between different memories and ideas' than other people) it seems a bit cavalier (and unlikely) to suggest that merely introducing the notion of creativity via a few words can reconstruct conditions that he had previously argued were the result of the intrinsic physical make up of some individuals' brains.

I also wonder what Ariely is even thinking of when he says 'So where do we stand on self-deception? Should we maintain it? Eliminate it?' I thought that everything that Ariely had said in the book up until this point (page 158) had made it pretty clear that we didn't have much choice in the matter. And Ariely seems to want to discover the 'function' of self-deception. One of his core conclusions is that 'self-deception is similar to its cousins, overconfidence and optimism' in that it can help us deal with stress, carry out tedious tasks and get us to try new and different experiences (if we didn't deceive ourselves, we would realise that we were doomed to either boredom or failure, or both).

My fundamental complaint is that Ariely seems to begin with the premise that all human beings are essentially honest and then to drop his carefully manufactured bombshell (We are all far less honest than we think!) on our unsuspecting heads. I'm also far from sure that self-deception has any kind of benign 'function', as Ariely suggests: as social animals, most of us are aware that mere anarchy is the route to social disaster, but that doesn't mean that we can't help ourselves to just a little bit of something that might technically belong to somebody else. As self-aggrandising idiots, we also think that we are capable of anything. This leads us (happily) to attempt things that we should realise that we are incapable of. As Ariely says, 'we persist in deceiving ourselves in part to maintain a positive self-image. We gloss over our failures, highlight our successes (even when they are not entirely our own), and love to blame other people and outside circumstances when our failures are undeniable.' That is a lovely summing up of a critical part of the human condition, but I am uncertain about Ariely's suggestion that we have any choice as to whether to deceive ourselves or not, or that self-deception is some kind of advantageous evolutionary pressure that helps us to cope with the realities of human life. I feel rather that self-deception is simply a part of the human condition and that we might be far more evolutionarily successful (but also far more boring) if, like the Vulcan, Spock ,from Star Trek, we didn't actually practice self-deception in the way that we do.

But I wouldn't be making these moans and gripes if Ariely's book hadn't set me off on a number of trains of thought. If you are interested in human behaviour and psychology, you will enjoy this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ariely then., 11 Aug 2013
By 
A John (Uk) - See all my reviews
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Three Stars but: This is the third book I have bought by Dan Ariely and honestly, I didn't finish it. Like completely. All the way to the end.

I got distracted from reading it by books with psychology and economics themes by Kahnmann and Cialdini, Taleb, Levitt and Silver and I haven't managed to get back to it.

Some of the content of The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty that I did read seemed to repeat content from his earlier two books, Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality.

Little, that I did read of it, grabbed me in the way that his TED talks or his other books have done.

In my opinion, Ariely's earlier book Predictably Irrational is still the best introduction to the psychology of behavioral economics, and that got a second edition in 2012 about the time that this was published.

I'd recommend that book over this with the obvious unfinished reservations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No surprises and a little disappointing, 17 Oct 2012
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I found this almost too light weight and the main premise seems to be so blindingly obvious that I couldn't help thinking - "people invested in doing research to find that out"! Also beware - this explores why individuals in business may fabricate but for me was not that informative about why individuals may fabricate in social situations. So if you want to unearth the depths of a friends or relations iniquity I suggest you go elsewhere!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destroying the Myths of Rational Self Interest, 13 Jun 2012
By 
Sir Furboy (Aberystwyth, UK) - See all my reviews
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I eagerly awaited my Kindle version of this book, having very much enjoyed the author's other works - especially "Predictably Irrational". This book is written in a very similar style. Self contained chapters look at different aspects of why we do things the way we do, filled with interesting personal anecdotes and descriptions of experiments conducted.

This is a popular science book, in that it does not provide you with all the data, sample sizes, statistical variations and other guff that would serve to confuse many readers, or at least turn interesting anecdotes into dry ones. Instead the author provides a link back to the academic papers he is describing in his endnotes, and I think that worked very well. Here was a book filled with plenty to interest any reader, but a means to verify the claims made by the more academically inclined.

The subject of the book is dishonesty and cheating, and Ariely manages to demonstrate some quite counterintuitive facts about our propensity to cheat, showing how effects such as social norms, effects of in-groups and out groups, supervision, and even recollection of moral principles all affect our behaviour. Interestingly he shows that even given the perfect opportunity to cheat to the maximum without consequences, nearly all of us opt to only cheat a little - and he proposes the mechanisms by which we mitigate our behaviour.

There are plenty of public policy implications from this work, as well as helpful guides to the reader as to how to control their own nature. I was struck, at times, by how many of these ideas to manage our own moral compass actually were not new at all. Instead, the research presented served to explain why things many people have discovered over the years are effective after all.

A real eye opener for me, however, was the demonstration that early intervention for minor misdemeanours was, in fact, much more important than intervention for later ones. Once it was stated, this idea seemed to me to be obvious, and yet I doubt I would have thought of it without the experiments that demonstrated the effect.

So all in all a very good and interesting read, filled with plenty of anecdotes, and experiments that seemed to cover a range of walks of life (from students to bankers or politicians) and nationalities (turns out that no nationality stands out when it comes to our propensity to cheat).

Thoroughly recommended. This and Ariely's other works should be required reading for anyone who holds to a view that humans always act in the name of their rational self interest. Ariely shows once and for all that we do not.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone has a story about a fudger., 27 May 2013
By 
Barry K Jackson (Reading, Berkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This book explains why people cheat marginally and why they continue to do it. I took away a self improvement from this as I saw how hand waving chores impacted on my intelligence.
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4.0 out of 5 stars entertaining but limited, 13 May 2013
By 
Ioannis Glinavos (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is an interesting and primarily entertaining book about dishonesty, what it means to be dishonest and in which circumstances people are exhibiting behaviour that would be perceived as dishonest. The main thesis of the book is that everyone is being dishonest in varied degrees almost continously. The interesting thing comes from trying to distinguish the situations from each other and to delve deeper into perceptions of right and wrong. This is all very well, and well written. This book however should not be used as a guide to types of dishonesty we associate with corruption, especially in international development scenarios. Taken from the personal to the institutional, dishonesty, in its expression as corruption is a wholly more serious situation and one which is due to institutional rather than personal factors. All in all an interesting read within its defined parameters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 12 May 2013
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Miss D. Najdenowa "deedeebg" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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great author, very quick shipment. Dan Ariely is one of my favourite authors and his take on rationality and other human behaviours is something that makes one think.
definitely recommended
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5.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward, 21 April 2013
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This book does not solve your life, but helps you to think laterally about the truth, which sometimes can be enlightening.
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